Review: Queens of the Conquest, Alison Weir

Rating: 3 out of 5

I’m one to like a good narrative history, especially of the earlier medieval times in England. However, this book suffered from random jumps in content. I can vividly remember a rather long section on the way bedchambers were set up, for example. It felt, in the majority, that as the queens that the book treated — three Matilda’s and one Maude — have so few facts to describe them, that Ms Weir had to resort to desperate measures to pad out the book. Continue reading “Review: Queens of the Conquest, Alison Weir”

Rating: A Great and Terrible King, Marc Morris

Rating: 3 out of 5

I like what Marc Morris writes — his style is readable, his thoughts proceed in an orderly manner. The last is especially important as unlike his book on John, the story of Edward proceeds in a clear chronological sequence. This is both a blessing and a curse: the overarching thesis seems to be that Edward wasn’t as bad as history makes him out to be. And, yet, the older he gets, the more absolute he wants to reign and the more tyrannical he comes through as well. Continue reading “Rating: A Great and Terrible King, Marc Morris”

Review: Everest 1953, Mick Conefrey

Rating: 4 out of 5

The story of the ascent of Everest gripped my interest in several ways – firstly, the narrative here begins more than two year before the event and comes in slowly, describing what had to be done before the ’53 expedition could happen; secondly, and more importantly, the book highlighted the importance of teamwork in challenging environments. I was also unaware of the ascent’s Coronation Day significance, but when it was revealed I was speechless. That moment, whether in London or anywhere in the Commonwealth, must have been spectacular… Continue reading “Review: Everest 1953, Mick Conefrey”

Review: Farewell Address, George Washington

Rating: 5 out of 5

There are two sentiments in this well-known piece which echo through the years — the first is of the national hero who yet manages to apologise for whatever he may have done wrong, and the second is of his eternal wish to be equal to every other person in his nation.

Yet, for the modern reader a lot of the pamphlet is barely understandable — who now has heard of the conflicts between the USA and France in the 1790’s? I have a good grounding at this point for I just read Hamilton’s biography and got the inspiration to investigate this piece, which is definitely worth doing — Just be prepared for some background reading. Yet, I’ll emphasise… “Though … I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have¬†committed many errors.” What a character!

Review: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hamilton, the arch-Federalist, is a typically maligned fellow in the history of these United States as it probably would have been called in his day. Mr Chernow has tried his best to bring him to life (and light) as well as to correct historical injustices, and in addition to the principal subject the reader is also treated to the story of his wife, Eliza, as well as the Federalist party though not in as many words. What we also see in these pages is the effort the author devoted to figuring out the motives of the various characters in the early republic as well as trying to objectively assess their contributions, and this makes for some very good reading.

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Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba”

Review: Citizen Clem, John Bew

Rating: 5 out of 5

I had barely no impression of Mr Attlee before I started this book — neither did I know much about Mr John Bew though his biography of Castlereagh has been in my “To Read” list since perhaps mid-2012. What I can say after finishing this biography is that Mr Attlee probably ranks amongst the top PMs to have ever governed in the United Kingdom while Mr Bew’s style of biography is superb, with just enough humanity to make the people live the pages they are written on.

Continue reading “Review: Citizen Clem, John Bew”

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